Ixana's Wi-R "Wire-Like Wireless" Aims to Put You in Touch With Your Tech's Comms — Literally

With a claimed hundredfold power efficiency gain over Bluetooth, Wi-R could bring about the Internet of Touch.

Ixana is hoping to bring about a revolution in communication by, unusually, reducing rather than increasing the range of wireless signals — using a non-radiative "wire-like wireless" system it calls Wi-R and which lets you transfer data, from contact information to streaming video, with a handshake.

"Wi-R is a new non-radiative near-field communication technology that uses Electro-Quasistatic (EQS) fields for communication," Ixana's Shreyas Sen explains of the company's technology in a write-up brought to our attention by CNX Software.

"Bluetooth signals can be accessed by anyone in a 5-10m [around 16-32 feet] radius. Wi-R, on the other hand, confines the signal around the surface, similar to wired communication. Hence, 'Wire-like Wireless,' or 'Wi-R.' Someone sitting at your next table doesn't even have access to the physical signal, leading to energy efficiency and additional physical security on top of the mathematical security that comes from encryption."

The future of communication could be a hearty handshake, thanks to Ixana's Wi-R technology. (📹: Ixana)

The idea behind Wi-R is to limit the communication to the surface of a user's body — or, at least, a very short distance away. This way a smartphone held in one hand can communicate with a smartwatch worn on the opposite wrist, or a fitness tracker worn on an ankle, or smart glasses worn on the head.

The technology extends beyond this, however, and into the realm of interpersonal communication. Two Wi-R users touching hands in a brief fist-bump can exchange contact information, while a longer handshake might be enough to send an image — and a long embrace enough to send video or other data-heavy media.

Sen, who pioneered the technology in 2016, claims Ixana's implementation of Wi-R can offer a 100-fold reduction in the energy used to transmit each bit of data compared to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth at a claimed sub-0.1 nanojoules per bit, around a tenth that required by Ultra Wideband (UWB) alternatives. At the same time, he makes impressive claims for its potential bandwidth: the company's current prototypes sustain a throughput of 1Mb/s, with a roadmap towards hitting 20Mb/s — enough for live-streamed video.

Ixana isn't the only company investigating using the human body as a communications medium. In mid-2022 researchers at Northwestern University and George Washington University designed a transient pacemaker that could dissolve within the human body when no longer required, and which was capable of communicating with sensors and control units using what the team called a "body-area network."

In November 2021, meanwhile, a team from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) proposed the "Internet of Bodies" using "harmless, tiny electrical signals to transmit data through conductive body tissue."

Ixana has launched three development kits — an evaluation board with USB Type-C smartphone dongle at $999, a pairing-free headphone kit at $899, and an augmented reality camera kit at $1,299 — and is accepting orders for its YR11 1Mb/s Wi-R chip in 10k quantities. More information is available on the Ixana website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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